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Hanna performingHello, I am Hanna Marszalek, and I’m now a Harry D. Jacobs High School freshman. I wanted to share my experience at the  Philadelphia International Music Festival’s (PIMF) Solo Performance Preparation Program (SPPP). The camp lasted about 2 weeks and was located in Philadelphia’s Valley Forge Military Academy and College.

I grew a lot as a musician through the camp. PIMF features members of the highly successful Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, as well as other highly successful musicians. While there, the members taught me a lot of things including how to correctly do different bow techniques, play more musically, practice exercises in order to improve many technical areas, and most importantly how to practice efficiently and effectively.

My repertoire for the program consisted of

  • Wieniawski: Concerto No. 2
  • Bach: Partita No. 3,  III. Gavotte en Rondeau
  • Beethoven: String Quartet No. 4 (mvmt. 1, 3, & 4)

Hanna quartetThere are many examples of my growth reflected in my repertoire. For example, in the third movement of my concerto, there are many difficult passages where I am doing sautille (an off-the-string bow stroke) on 16th notes while shifting into different positions. One of the teachers I studied with there taught me how to relax my bowhand to do the technique properly. Another example was when another one of my instructors heard me play my Bach Partita, and later showed me exactly how to practice, play, and perfect the Baroque style. Also, while playing Beethoven Quartet No. 4, I learned how to communicate with my quartet, blend, balance, and even tune correctly.

A typical day in my life at PIMF would begin at 7:00 AM, with my morning routine and later meeting my friends for breakfast at 8:00. I would then proceed to the morning meeting, which started at 8:45. When the meeting concluded at 9:15, I would then go to private practice until noon, with lessons and piano accompanist sessions between. After lunch, I would continue practicing until 2:00, when we had a performance class. In performance class, one student at a time would perform their piece, and then students would comment on it. As stressful as that seems, it was fun, and in the long run, it was interesting to see what your peers had to say. Soon after, we would head to a two-hour quartet rehearsal. We would then proceed to dinner at 5:15, followed by free time until 7:00 when we had a nightly masterclass or concert. When the concert ended, we would head to our dorms, chat, and get ready for bed until lights out at around 10:30.

Hanna with friendsAlthough I had many amazing teachers and coaches at PIMF, three people really stuck out to me. The first person was Mr. Kent Bergin, my chamber music coach. He was truly one of the best coaches I have ever had. He taught me so much not just about chamber, but truly just about music as a whole. He also taught me that you should have balance as a musician, and putting too much time into your instrument or not taking a break isn’t good for you either.

The second person that really stuck out to me was Dr. Alice Lindsay. I remember having a chamber coaching with her and at first being overwhelmed with her persistent attitude towards making our group sound perfect. However, when the coaching finished, I realized just how much I learned in those short two hours that we were together.

The final person who I will always remember was Mrs. Meichen Liao-Barnes. I remember walking into my lesson with her, feeling a strong combination of unpreparedness and imposter syndrome. She asked me to play my concerto for her, and when I finished, she immediately asked me why I looked so disappointed. I explained that I hadn’t picked up that particular movement in two months, to which she then answered with many compliments and an impressed look. I remember walking out of that lesson feeling as if I had found a new motivation and purpose for playing my instrument. That is a person I will remember and a moment that I will forever treasure.

Overall, the Philadelphia International Music Festival is a wonderful camp and was worth every penny. I would recommend the Solo Performance Preparation Program to every musician because it really pushed me and I was able to learn so much not only about my instrument, but also myself. I will never forget my experience at the Philadelphia International Music Festival!


Hanna Marszalek

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